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May 03, 2007

Arrests - Waiting Angels, MI

This morning, Joe and Simone were arrested on multiple charges including felony rackateering which could carry as much as a 20 year sentence. Authorities are working to find assistance with finishing outstanding cases. If you have a pending case, you should be contacted soon.

It is horrifying that an act of love and devotion can be abused to such an extent. We will update you with more information as we receive it and as usual, we offer our emotional support to the families involved.

Rescue 4 Undercover Report 1
Rescue 4 Undercover Report 2

Posted by Kelly at May 3, 2007 02:51 PM
Comments

My heart and prayers go out to all our families.
Marie, Guatadopt

Posted by: marie at May 3, 2007 03:21 PM

oh wow, I just saw them on the precious.org photolisting site...that's really scary.

Posted by: vea at May 3, 2007 04:03 PM

Did the reporter say they found more than half a million dollars in CASH in Simone's house???? No normal person keeps cash like that in their home. I guess there was a lot more to the story than one unhappy client......

Posted by: Shocked at May 3, 2007 04:51 PM

I watched the video and it was heartbreaking. How do these people do this? How do they sleep at night?

I hope that family gets their money back and are able to complete their dream of adopting a baby.

Posted by: Julie at May 3, 2007 05:12 PM

That video link you added is just so sad. I feel for everyone that have endured pain from this agency. Just unbelievable how someone can do that do another human being. Thoughts are with everyone involved.

Posted by: D at May 3, 2007 07:05 PM

If indeed this couple is guilty as charged (and at this early stage the evidence looks pretty damning) I hope they are charged under the RICO provision and have everything they gained through their fraud taken away from them... with a good, stiff jail sentence for each, of course. And if guilty, they have done irreparable harm to the practice of international adoption. Still, they're innocent until proven guilty.

Posted by: Gregg at May 3, 2007 09:43 PM

my thoughts are with those families ...

MK

Posted by: Mary-Kate at May 4, 2007 05:16 AM

After watching the second video of the actual arrest, I am amazed at the arrogance of Simone as she sneers into the camera and even more amazed that her attorney asked not to have her wear the tether under the house arrest so she can be a dancer in a club........simply revolting.....

http://www.clickondetroit.com/video/13254873/index.html

Posted by: amazed at May 4, 2007 07:59 AM

Joe and Simone must have been removed by Precious.Org because as I monitor the site, the children they had are no longer listed.
Thank goodness.......maybe now they can no longer hurt any other innocent people looking to create a family....

Posted by: amazed at May 4, 2007 08:00 AM

God bless the families and children. What a horrible thing to have to endure. I hope people like this can be stopped.

Is it me or is there a rash of busting agencies lately? Does anyone know if there is some sort of unstated plan going on?

Posted by: Gayle at May 4, 2007 08:42 AM

I agree innocent until proven guilty but it's looking bad. If true not only does it hurt parents but also hurts an unknown number of children who may never get adopted because potential parents either lose their financial ability to adopt or are afraid to pursue it. If true the courts need to come down hard, take everything and hand down hard time, to discourage others. Otherwise people are going to think it's worth the risk to do this and it just gets worse for the kids. My thoughts and prayers to the families.

Posted by: lisa at May 4, 2007 08:53 AM

Did anyone catch the end of the video segment where they preview another news segment on how birthmoms are paid for their babies and this money is their only source of income? I'm not naive, and, as much as I wish that this never happened, I believe it does at times happen. But I'm very tired of hearing the media portraying Guatemalan adoptions this way. If the birthmoms are selling their babies, then the adoptive parents are buying them, yes? Argh! I would never knowingly participate in that.

Posted by: Shelly, Mom to Isabel at May 4, 2007 09:33 AM

This is all so sad! And don't they have adopted children from Guatemala? I feel so bad for all the clients who never received their child, my heart goes out to all of you! One thing though, and I'm not sure if the link you provided mentions it, but on Click on Detroit there is another video story about the birthmom's in Guat. "selling" their children. At the beginning, they mention the "Dateline" investigation. It worries me, because is the story that's going to come out (supposedly at the end of this month) on adoptions from Guatemala going to turn into another negative story on international adoptions? We certainly don't need that! Just my thoughts.

My thoughts and prayers are with the families who were scammed and I do hope they got their money back and are able to adopt, if they still desire.

Posted by: L at May 4, 2007 10:45 AM

It is devastating to find out that Joe and Smone stole our money. So, for the AG's office to refuse to return my calls is very disappointing. After weeks of trying to talk to them, now I really don't feel that they are going to help us at all. They should be concerned about everyone's case-not just people who live in Michigan. I have left many messages for Susan Sanford and at this point can only assume she doesn't want to talk to me. Now, we'll have to hire our own attorney to hanle it for us. What an incredible disappontemnt all the way around.

Posted by: T at May 4, 2007 11:33 AM

I had initial conversations with Waiting Angels but chose not to use them in connection with our last adoption. I do know that Simone has three (3) adopted children from Guatemala. This must be a horrific experience for those children. Does anyone know who is caring for them and what arrangements have been made for their welfare? They are victims as much as the families who have been harmed by Waiting Angels.

Posted by: Lawrene at May 4, 2007 12:04 PM

What a heartbreaking video.
I happened upon parts one and two on someones blog and was sick.

I know that the undercover person was a reporter so they knew what questions to ask but really these people are something!!! They made my skin crawl. I would be very happy to see them locked up and everything taken away from them. I'm so sick of the bad press Guatemalan adoptions are getting. Of course the bad press is what sells.

I know of two families that are caught in this mess and one asked me to see if there was any kind of support group being started. Right now they are too upset to do the asking so I told them I'd look around for them. I'll check here and around to see.

The families and the children are in my prayers.
Cathie

Posted by: Cathie at May 4, 2007 01:17 PM

I wonder if our money was even sent to the attorneys?

Posted by: Rachel at May 4, 2007 02:58 PM

What a bitter sweet victory to finally have something done about Joe and Simone only to have them label our children as having been sold by their birthmothers. Joe and Simone are the gift that just keeps giving.

We brought our daughter home in March of 2006 through Waiting Angels. She is our 8th child, the "baby" of the family, who came home at 15 months. She is our last child. She would have been our only child if she had been our first adoption.

All of our children were adopted internationally. I'll say it again: We wouldn't have had the courage to adopt again had Waiting Angels been our first agency experience.

My husband and I are so very sorry for all of you caught in this situation.

Do everything you can to work directly with your Guatemalan facilitator/attorney. If there are some of you who are just lost as to what to do, respond to me and I will see what I can do to help.

Karen

Posted by: karen at May 4, 2007 05:17 PM

Iam so sorry for anyone involved with this agency at this time. I know Simone has 3 children and I feel so bad for them and what could happen. I'm glad you will have the support of this site and others from that agency.
SS

Posted by: ss at May 4, 2007 05:46 PM

Even more damaging video today at http://www.clickondetroit.com/video/13256947/index.html

Believe what "Joe" has to say or not, this video is going to do horrendous harm to the cause of international adoption. It makes my heart ache.

And as an aside for those who've defended the couple, would you really have been happy to know that if things turned bad for a while, Simone would "go back" to dancing in a nightclub for a living. A stripper as an adoption facilitator? H'mmm...

Posted by: Gregg at May 4, 2007 09:29 PM

i can not even begin to imagine the pain these families are going through. the thought of their experiences makes my heart hurt and makes me thankful for my own child who did come home.

to the families: my thoughts and prayers are with you and your children :(

Posted by: mommytoEli at May 4, 2007 11:07 PM

I am extremely upset after viewing the third segment with Dateline's piece in Guat about the BM's selling their children. Dateline was supposed to do a positive piece on Guat adoption. I think this will have a negative effect and am quite angry. What about the BM's in the US that are paid thru their pregnancy along with housing costs, etc???? Is that not considered payment???? Opinions, please.

Posted by: amazed at May 5, 2007 08:36 AM

Guatadopt has never been under the illusion that the Dateline report (when it comes out) would be all peaches N cream. I believe that we made that quite clear in the announcement. In fact, it has been our hope that by treating the infection, we can save the child. our hope is that Dateline (as well as other organizations) will point out the strengths in the system (like the wonderful foster care and private hogares) and the issues Guatemala faces with no viable welfare system.

Posted by: Kelly (guatadopt.com) at May 5, 2007 09:40 AM

You know I don't want my faith in the system to be shaken so easily, but I can't help but consider if some of the comments made about selling babies is true. My heart tells me my little one, who is in process, is legitimately given up for adoption but my mind wonders. Is it possible a loop hole could be exploited and the appearance of selling babies is the result. I'd be curious how often this happens, I think that is where the difference lies. My latitude of acceptance would be lowered if I was told, yes, this happens but only in rare cases as I know that every system in the world has a few people that exploit it. But if at a whole the system is being exploited are my eyes open wide enough to see the truth. When my beautiful baby girl and the other love of my life (wife first) comes home, I want to be able to defend the purity of which how this wonderful little girl became part of our lives. I see my new baby girl as pure, innocent and unmarred by the world and I don't want anything to interfere with that purity such as baby selling etc as is mentioned in the second report when the couple talks about it. I want to be able to defend my adoption to the world with a good conscience. Does anyone else out there feel the same. Do you wonder how often this baby selling does occur? If anyone does have an insiders take please shed some light on this. Thanks

Posted by: Scotty V at May 5, 2007 10:43 AM

I'm rarely speechless, but here I am, truly speechless. How is it that two thugs -- two low lifes like that were allowed to enter into the adoption practice in the state of Michigan???

I am an adoption professional with a Guatemala practice. I promise you that how that thug represented things is NOT how it works with most practices. If that is how it worked, then we would never have missed birth mother appointments at family court; and we would never have birth mothers not come in for DNA. If this is the way these people were running their scam then thank God they were shut down.

Oh and the icing on the cake -- Simone can't be on house arrest because she is back to being a "dancer" in bar???????

Again, how did the state of Michigan allow these to two enter into the profession of child placement in the first place??

Posted by: Anon Please at May 5, 2007 10:51 AM

Knowing what I do about the media I would be very interested to view the entire undercover video they made to see if they took out parts to make their story more interesting. You can do amazing things with an hour long video cut into 2 minutes. I pray that nobody I know every sees this because I am already being questioned by family if my daughters birthmother had the baby "just to get money." This makes me sick. I know that some people sell their babies, it happens in the U.S. too, but that is not the majority.

Posted by: Jill at May 5, 2007 11:33 AM

OK,...this may receive some bashing, but in my opinion, if the mother's get paid, so what!?! What is wrong with someone receiving a little compensation for the abuse her body has received from carrying a child or the time and expense involved nurturing that child while in the womb?

I had a friend that offered to surrogate for me. During our discussions we agreed that she would be compensated for lost wages, for her diet, for medical bills, etc. She was willing to put herself through the hardest experience, physically, that a woman can endure. You better believe I was willing to offer her some sort of indemnification.

At least those children aren't showing up in the fields bound in cloth or thrown in dumpsters like yesterday's trash. So many children abroad are committed to a horrible existence from the time of conception. I think the realization that some mother's may be receiving compensation, is by far, the least of many evil's when considering the big picture.

Posted by: Gayle at May 5, 2007 02:09 PM

I'm just sick over this, it makes all of our adoptions appear to be a crime, now, we can all look forward to whispers and dirty looks when we tell people where we adoped from. No wonder international adoption has such a stigma. Gee, to think I could have spent 20k+ for a roll of the dice with a birthmom here in the states just to have her change her mind but that's not paying for a baby? Like others have said before me, this will do great harm to the children of Guatemala. It sickens me. I know that some agencies and facilitators have done unethichal things, but that happens everywhere not just Guatemala. I hate this dark cloud over my pending adoptions and everyone elses. So sorry for everyone's loss. ~Melissa

Posted by: Melissa at May 5, 2007 03:43 PM

To Amazed,
I was thinking the same thing. I guess as long as it happens in the US it's okay but it's buying a baby if it happens in Guat. The amount of money that is given to BM's is the US is much greater than what they are talking about BM's in Guat receiving.

Posted by: b at May 5, 2007 06:56 PM

My husband & I are in the beginning stages of adoption and haven't signed with an agency yet, so this is very disturbing to us. As badly as we want to be parents we would never want to do so at the expense of someone else. This agency and others who are participating in these unethical practices must be punished to the full extent of the law.
I had seen Reece & Amanda on Montel Williams' show a while back and knew they had problems with their agency, but after viewing the two news clips you linked here, I am horrified. I feel so badly for all the hopeful adoptive families as well as the children of Guatemala for such thoughtless and selfish actions of this agency. Very sad.
Does anyone know where I could view the clip from Dateline? I didn't know it had aired already and must have missed it. Thanks.

Posted by: lynne at May 6, 2007 02:45 PM

The video makes me sick. Now Simone wants to go back to dancing...What the HELL! What about those babies. I feel for each & everyone of you who have been with this so called Agency. Maybe we need a rally, for these clients who don't yet have there babies home.

Oh, I'm sick at my stomach....I don't want people to see my son & think we just handed over X amount of dollars & pop we got us a son. That is not the way it was, but that is the way the news people also want it to sound.


LETS RALLY TOGETHER FOR THE SAKE OF THE CHILDREN...SAY WHEN & WHERE & I'LL BE THERE.

Posted by: Sandy at May 6, 2007 06:50 PM

I just wanted to thank everyone for their kind words of support through all of this. While we are pleased that FINALLY, we knocked on enough doors to get someone else to listen to us, and recognize that what these two have been doing is not only wrong, it is criminal, it also does not put a baby in our crib upstairs. I will most certainly keep everyone updated on the progression of the case, and only hope that this will also cause other agencies to realize that they need to be honest in their actions, or families will band together, and WILL take action!

This process has taken so much out of us. Luckily, I am married to the most wonderful guy in the world, and have made some fantastic friends through this experience. We had suffered through years of failed infertility treatments, and had no children when we began this process in March of 2005. We started out very excited, as I'm sure all can imagine, and have now found that we feeling as though we have changed as people. We have lost our ability to automatically trust or give anyone the benefit of the doubt as we did more than two years ago now. I am so thankful to have found such a supportive group of people though this, all suffering in their own version of Waiting Angels hell. I am also very thankful to have found an attorney that has been so compassionate and tenacious in helping us with the quest to correct the balance of things. I am additionally thankful to the media for forcing the issue to be exposed on multiple levels, which hopefully, will cause the investigators to feel even more pressured to make sure there are no loopholes for these two to be able to slide through.

We do not know what we will do from here. We have been told that most likely we will have to go to court to testify during the upcoming trial over the summer. We have heard rumor that we may get at least a portion of the money that was sent to WA returned to us. We have heard and been promised things by others though, so we will believe it when we see the check. Then we will have the civil trial after that... even if we get in a financial position to be able to try to adopt again, we don't know that we have the emotional and mental resources to venture down that path again. We will keep all informed of decisions regarding that as well.

Thank you again to all who have been supportive to us and to each other along this journey. This is a sorority that none of us ever really wanted to join (because the hazing part really sucks!), but I am so glad to have known all of you, and am proud to call you friends!

~Amanda

Posted by: Bittersweet at May 6, 2007 07:47 PM

Gayle: Let me tell you why paying a birth mom money (upon relinquishment) is a problem. In a country like Guatemala, with extreme poverty, people are desperate. And desperation leads people to do unthinkable things. Take your mind to the worst places--like forcibly impregnating young women and coercing them to sign-off on relinquishment papers (there are reports of this). As I said, unthinkable things. In Cambodia, poor families were approached and told that they would be able to stay connected with the children and many of them believed that they would be rewarded with money/resources not only upon relinquishment, but also over the ensuing years given a relationship with their child--a member of a rich American family. Well, they believed this and signed the papers--never to see their child again (if you don't believe this, review US Marshall Cross' documentation of Lauryn Galindo/facilitator and her prosecution). Also, in Guatemala (a traditional culture)in the past families have taken care of orphaned children informally--a sister may raise her brother's child, etc. This is kinship care. Now, with the adoption baby boom, it appears that this part of the culture may well be shifting. Finally, in a country like Guatemala where adoption is estimated to be a $150 million dollar industry yearly and desperation/corruption are rampant--let your mind go to the worst places. That is the reality of paying upon relinquishment. Yes, BMs are paid for expenses in the US. And, there are abuses. However, there is legal recourse if the adoption is completed in an unethical manner. In Guatemala, there is no such recourse. Hence, adoption reform is essential. I encourage all of you to consider how the families of Cambodian children felt when they learned that their adopted children had not been legally relinquished (see Galindo case). It was absolutely heart breaking. This case is an example of the worst places that your brain can go in terms of paying upon relinquishment. Saying all of this, adoption is very complicated and I know that families in the US are doing the best they can to build their families. However, it is essential to be honest about practices and the fact that states like MI let people like Simone and Joe set up shop in their home, hang a sign on the internet, and take LARGE sums of money! Shame on MI! Shame on the intercountry adoption professionals who have failed to assist their states in developing regulations--we must use our time, resources, and passion to insist on changes for agency licensure which includes licensed professional standards of practice. I mean, would you work with a lawyer that has not passed the bar and is not recognized for practice in your state? Well, the same should be the case for adoption agencies. Licensed social workers or other helping professional credentials is really not negotiable in my opinion.

Posted by: karenms1 at May 6, 2007 09:44 PM

How is it that the "Waiting Angels" still have their website up and running? They still have children available.

Posted by: Wendy at May 6, 2007 10:28 PM

First, I would like to say that Amanda is my hero! She has pulled us all together over the past 15 months, sharing info and stories so that we could all be as informed as possible. We all agreed that these people needed to be shut down in the worst possible way. Amanda, THANK YOU!!!!

To answer a few questions: there is no licensing requirement in Mich for adoption agencies. No standards, no laws, nothing. In order to shut them down it had to be proven that they were fraudulantly conducting business the same way you would go after a con artist.

Simone and Joe are not a couple. They do not live together. Simone has 3 children adopted from Guat. Her mother lives nearby and is very involved with the kids, so I am assuming she is there for them. They are innocent victims in this and don't deserve any of what is happening to them.

There is a group of us who have formed a support system. If you would like to join, please e-mail me with the info on who you are, and the specifics of your case at wjarman@lexgen.com. Joe, Simone and anyone associated or working for them are not allowed. This is for emotional support for those of us caught up in this disaster.

Posted by: Wendy at May 7, 2007 10:17 AM

I too feeling that click on detroit made a poor decision on airing that awful depiction of guatemala adoption.

i feel that adoption processes will be and already is looked @ poorly. i have called karen @ the news station and she has not returned my call, i left the message the night the segment aired....!! i will continue to contact the new station until i get someone!!!

Posted by: summer at May 7, 2007 10:25 AM

The comment that Joe made in the second video that really resonated with us is that Americans don’t want to hear that the birth mothers have “sold” their babies. Within the last year we adopted a baby from Guatemala. While still in PGN, we learned that the birthmother was again pregnant. We’d heard rumors about this, and inquired through our agency. The attorneys in Guatemala informed them that they were aware that the birthmother was again pregnant. Though she had originally said she would relinquish the new baby at its birth, they had not seen her or heard from her in several months. We later learned that she gave birth to another child just 11 months and a day after having our child.

Through a foster mother who knows our child’s birthmother in Guatemala, we inquired about the newborn baby. In the process we learned that the birthmother had been paid roughly $2,500 by the attorney in Guatemala upon relinquishing our child. (In a country where the majority of people live on less than $2 a day, such an amount is a literal treasure.) In addition, the attorney had also paid all of the medical costs, etc. related to the pregnancy. The birthmother said that the reason she did not relinquish the newborn is that a family member became ill while she was pregnant, and she went to take care of her. Now that the baby is several months old, the mother is reluctant to part with her.

All of this is rather curious, in light of the fact that the Guatemalan social worker’s report for the adoption of our child states that the birthmother had her tubes tied following the birth of our child. Clearly somebody lied. Perhaps it was the birthmother, and perhaps it was the social worker. I’m somewhat inclined to believe the latter, as it would only be in the interest of the social worker to do so, helping to allay any fears we may have had about the mother’s intent in having our baby. After all, the social worker’s livelihood relies upon having happy clients, i.e. adoptive parents.

We can all bury our heads in the sand and do whatever we need to do to justify the payments made to mothers in Guatemala. In its present form, adoption in Guatemala is unique to the world in that the people who have the most to gain financially from the $100,000,000 adoption “industry” are the same folks that make almost all the decisions and control the process. The attorney fees alone that we paid for our adoption were more than $20,000. Multiply that by the roughly 5,000 adoption per year, and you can see a good reason that the notaries et.al. in Guatemala are so interested in maintaining the status quo.

Say what you want about the evils of UNICEF, and for the most part we will agree with you. But let’s not be so naive to believe that fraud and abuses of then system are so rare as we’ve been told. Unfortunately, until serious changes are made to the Guatemalan adoption system we can expect to see more cases like that of Waiting Angels popping up. We can also expect that the media will jump all over them, sensationalizing every sordid detail. By its very nature, television is all about entertainment, and very little about “news”.

Are there some poor women in Guatemala who, out of desperation to survive, make babies to satisfy the North American demand? Perhaps this would help explain the stories we hear of mothers who in quick succession have two, three, or more children who they relinquish for adoption. Birth control is cheap and readily available in Guatemala. A woman can make a visit to almost any corner pharmacy and, without prescription, get a shot of Depoprevera.

As for the circumstances of our child’s birth, at this point we simply don’t care. We have bonded well, and love our child dearly. The tragedy is that some people always want to believe the worst. We know that someday, some cruel hearted person may well make a hurtful comment to our child. We will deal with that, if and when the time comes. For now, we have chosen to remain anonymous in this posting. Kelly knows who we are, and that we’re not some outsiders trying to attack the Guatemala adoption community.

We pray for all the children in Guatemala, and especially those that need a loving family. We also pray for all the families that appear to have been so mercilessly swindled by Joe and Simone. We can't help but wonder if Simone really does have three children adopted from Guatemala. Perhaps that too is a fabrication. It sure seems strange that the television reports never mentioned it.

Posted by: adoptive family at May 7, 2007 11:39 AM

Amanda,
We are all there for you! I know this is easy to say, because we have our son home (former WA client), but don't lose all hope. If you can do it again financially, I say it's worth the risk! You have a lifetime left! Don't give Simone and Joe the satisfaction of squashing your dreams. Children are worth the wait!

Posted by: anon at May 7, 2007 01:27 PM

Some of these posts have mentioned that birth mothers accept relatively huge payments upon relinquishment of their children (apparently this was claimed in one of the videos related to the WA case, though I didn't watch it). Does anyone genuinely know if this payment occurs in ALL or MOST adoptions, or what?? I hear these claims, and I don't know how to react - am I supposed to believe it always happens? Or it happens in rare cases?? I'm not denying that it happens, I just don't know if I should assume that it is the norm. If I'm going to have a response to those who criticize Guat adoptions, I need to know the facts.
On a side note, a post above said that most Guatemalans live on less than $2 a day... and the poster also stated that "birth control is cheap and readily available" in Guatemala. I have to argue with the idea that birth control is "cheap" for those living on $2 a day!! Those pharmacies aren't giving discounted rates - I've bought medications from them myself, and it's no bargain, even if prescriptions aren't needed.

Posted by: JA at May 7, 2007 05:43 PM

Certainly we were horrified to hear about the details surrounding the case with Waiting Angels. And, unfortunately, it is another example of why adoptions from Guatemala are ALL falling under closer scrutiny, oftentimes unjustly. After seeing the Rescue 4 Undercover Report on our local news, we were compelled to E-mail the reporter, expressing our dissatisfaction with the way the report was handled. What we found to be most objectionable was the way Guatemalan women were demeaned and insulted by implying the broad scope of women (primarily indigenous) who were "courted" or coerced into relinquishing their children for money. It was in my view a slap in the face of every Guatemalan woman who has carefully and thoughtfully chosen such a difficult path as making an adoption plan. I'll include the E-mail I sent here; there are actually 2 e-mails, but I won't include the response E-mail from the reporter. She did respond back quickly, but I'm not sure if it's proper to share her E-mail with the public:

1st E-mail:

As parents of a beloved child from Guatemala, with another daughter soon to be arriving home, we felt compelled to respond to your news feature that aired on the 11 PM news broadcast of May 3. Without a doubt, Waiting Angels Adoption Services, Inc. is the type of organization that gives a bad name to all adoption agencies. This organization seems to have been proven to be unscrupulous and completely lacking in ethics--qualities that anybody would find unacceptable in an adoption agency. We are eager to see the families who have been impacted by these con artists find some small satisfaction in seeing them brought to justice, although it cannot possibly replace the heartache of losing a precious child who they, in good faith, believed was going to be part of their forever family. Our hearts break for these families and for the children who will likely get lost in the Guatemalan system.

However, we were appalled at the negative slant your feature presented in regard to the general picture of Guatemalan adoptions. Viewing your segment, one would likely be lead to believe that there are no reputable agencies working in the best interest of the child, birth family, and adoptive families. You clearly have missed the mark here, and we are truly disappointed that a reputable news organization such as Channel 4 could present such an incomplete story, even in the current media atmosphere that has the tendency to pit one television station against the other to compete for the most sensationalistic "investigative journalism" scoop possible. Here are some points we found offensive and truly lacking in sensitivity and fact.

When you arrogantly presume that the typical Guatemalan birth mother can often be bought, coerced, or otherwise convinced to "give up" her child, it's clear that you have no understanding of the realities of these desperate lives. When a woman chooses an adoption plan for her child she makes the ultimate sacrifice--to stack the odds in her beloved child's favor and give him the future that she cannot provide. Guatemalan women, particularly Mayan women, are viewed as second-rate citizens in their own country. Surely you have done some fact-checking and are aware of the history of genocide committed against the indigenous people of Guatemala. In a country where women are regularly targeted by the worst types of violence, including rape and murder, and live in fear that their children will not live to see adulthood, one can easily see how choosing an adoption plan is often the best option for these women---and certainly for the children. Please understand that the great majority of these women do not choose this path because of financial gain--they make the loving choice of adoption because they want a future for their child; a future that is questionable if not impossible in Guatemala at the present time.

In 2004, we adopted our daughter at the age of 5 months. Our precious daughter was the sole survivor of twin girls, each weighing just over 2 lbs. at birth. Our child's diminutive and ill birth mother was a woman who could barely feed her other 3 children, let alone address the special needs of a premature child with an uncertain future. When we read the account of her life and the hellish experiences she lived on a daily basis, we thank God that she had the courage of heart to choose an adoption plan for her child. This was not an easy decision for her, and I can guarantee that money had nothing to do with her wish to see her child live a better life than she was able to provide. As a Mayan woman, she is viewed as a second-class citizen, not worthy of the most basic human kindnesses. On our trip to bring our daughter home, I had the privilege of speaking with a Mayan woman at an outdoor market. She said that her biggest source of sadness was that so many women were not able to provide security and a safe home for their children. She loved her country, yet felt in a sense imprisoned by the harsh realities of trying to raise a family in that environment. This is the typical picture of a Guatemalan woman and the circumstances that lead her to choose adoption for her child; not the prejudicial, slanted view that was presented in your feature. Your segment smacked of the racist stereotypes that we have fought so long to abolish in our country, and it's shocking that Channel 4 would perpetuate these views.

It's most definitely true that there are some unethical, corrupt participants involved international adoptions, including Guatemala. There are currently reforms underway that will hopefully insure that children's rights are protected and agencies such as Waiting Angels aren't ever allowed to do what they did to these unfortunate families. Please know, however, that the great majority of adoptions that are completed between Guatemala and the United States are done ethically--by licensed agencies, with a clean track record and compassion for the beautiful, strong, women who have chosen to make an adoption plan. Many of us who have chosen to adopt internationally do so because of a definite humanitarian need--to provide a home for children who would otherwise be forced into prostitution, left to beg in the streets, or wind up a victim to the violent crime that blankets their home country. We are honored to be able to parent our daughter, and we pray for the day when we can soon bring our other daughter home, knowing that her birth mother has made the most difficult decision imaginable. She has chosen to secure a future for her child. Our agency has always said that they do not find babies for families . . .they find families for babies; and, this philosophy is at the heart of every ethical and above-board agency that works with domestic and international adoptions.

Please consider doing another news feature . . .one that accurately depicts the true story of international adoption, particularly in Guatemala. It is a beautiful country with a rich heritage; and, frankly, you owe it to all reputable agencies, adoption attorneys and coordinators, adoptive families, and particularly to the birth mothers who have so carefully made such an unselfish and giving choice. We will be happy to flip the remote back to channel 4 when that happens.


and E-mail #2:

Thank you for taking the time to respond to our E-mail, and for responding so quickly--we appreciate that. We are aware that there is an unfortunate number of unscrupulous people involved in Guatemalan adoption--on this side of the equation and on Guatemala's side. We have heard bits and pieces about the forthcoming Dateline investigation, and we just hope that equal efforts will be made to present the agencies, coordinators, attorneys, and facilitators who have continually operated within the law--with the common goal of providing a much needed family for desperate children. We do realize that your feature was focused on Waiting Angels; and, as we said, we are very grateful for the investigation that will hopefully bring these offenders to justice. We also understand that you technically did not use the term "all adoptions" or "all birth mothers" as you reported on the illegal activity and unethical behavior of Waiting Angels.

But, as footage was compiled, edited, and formatted, perhaps for the greatest impact on the viewing public, it was clear that whoever had editorial control over this segment was clearly going for the jugular. The perception and tone of the segment was what we found to be objectionable. Responsible journalism includes presenting a well-rounded view of the situation at hand, and that didn't happen here. The ethical and morally responsible thing to do would be to feature stories of some of the birth mothers that have chosen this route carefully and thoughtfully, along with all of the support team that helps them through this truly tough decision. To give you the benefit of the doubt, perhaps that is forthcoming.

We also want to assure you that we, in no way, have our heads in the sand, refusing to acknowledge that some birth mothers are quite likely solicited and "courted" to hand over their children. The true number is certainly not known, and we pray it is small. This is not new information, but has continued to be one of the key points as adoption policies and procedures are investigated. We need to recognize, however, that there is a fine line between offering service and support and soliciting or "courting." It's a tough issue, because these women are left with so few resources and literally nowhere to turn. We are very aware of all of the recent and past investigations and attempts at securing a more ethical, uniform, and just system for international adoption with Guatemala. As adoptive parents, we try to remain current and educated on the ever-changing face of Guatemalan adoption.

What we hope to see in your future segments, and certainly with the Dateline investigation, is an accurate depiction of the difficulties these pregnant Guatemalan women face. We hope that they are not further insulted by stereotypes, nor that they have their lives and decisions trivialized and dehumanized by errant reporting. We are very aware of the recent onslaught in the media, largely critical of adoption to Guatemala. Obviously, there is just cause for many of the concerns---the very reason that all responsible people connected to adoption want to see reforms happen. The children in Guatemala, their birth families, and adoptive families throughout the world deserve better, and this is a quagmire of concerns on an international level. All we are asking is that while efforts are made to implement reforms to benefit these children and their families, media organizations do not continue to depict only the most sensationalistic aspects of the story. By focusing so much attention exclusively on the negative, the end result is that children will suffer. There is so much more information to be had, and we are hopeful that future channel 4 segments related to Guatemalan adoption will be inclusive of those realities. Thank you again for your response.

Posted by: Lisa at May 7, 2007 08:02 PM

Well said, Lisa. Thank you.

peace,
Beth

Posted by: Beth at May 8, 2007 08:43 AM

Lisa,

Thank you for sharing your correspondence with Channel 4. You took what I'm sure many of us are feeling and eloquently put it into words.

Lisa - Waiting in Michigan

Posted by: Lisa at May 8, 2007 08:49 AM

Comparing domestic adoption expenses to Guatamala, there are some dissimilarities. In the U.S., first parents qualify for Medicaid and other programs that pay for expenses and PAP's usually do not pay for those costs. Customarily, the decision to place for domestic adoption is made late in the third trimester so that limits expenses for PAPs. The courts also must approve and decide if a PAP's expenditures in support of the birth family is reasonable. There is also the economic disparity between the US and Guatemala. Three grand is chump change in the US and might only pay a few months rent and utilities for a first parent. In impoverished countries, three grand is one years income. The relationship between average yearly income between the US and impoverished countries is a factor that can't be ignored.

Posted by: BB at May 8, 2007 09:08 AM

Lisa, thanks for sharing the emails you sent to Channel 4 in Detroit. I agree with almost all of your comments. However, I wouldn't bet on seeing them do any sort of meaningful story any time in the future. Features like "Rescue 4 Undercover" are not about news, they're about entertainment. Since May is a Nielsen "sweeps" month, it should come as no surprise that we see this kind of titillating story on the tube. (I find the Michigan Attorney General's office "coincidental" timing very interesting.) It's unlikely we'll ever see a serious piece on anything other than PBS or perhaps a few of the cable networks.

Posted by: Gregg (and Esperanza) at May 8, 2007 09:51 AM

Two responses:

1st response - To "Adoptive Family" - Your otherwise well-reasoned and credible post was undermined by a comment about which I suspect you have little experience. That is, "Birth control is cheap and readily available in Guatemala. A woman can make a visit to almost any corner pharmacy and, without prescription, get a shot of Depoprevera." First, the drug is "Depo Provera". Second, while the GT constitution does stipulate that birth control is not illegal & should be made readily available, the reality is that free and/or low cost contraception is very hard to come by in GT. The gov't. of GT simply does not have the money to make available the free and reduced price contraception outlined in the constitution, so it is not happening. What is made available is disseminated at gov't. clinics and via APROFAM, but there are not tons of these, they are not geographically dispersed so that the bulk of indigenous women have access, and the black market invariably takes a cut. There are a number of NGOs making contraception available, but these are few and far between as well. Third, "almost any corner pharmacy" makes the assumption that GT is covered with "corner pharmacies". In reality, GT is a largely rural country & pharmacies exist only in the largest cities. It is just as likely as not that the average indigenous woman who seeks contraception has never seen a "corner pharmacy". Fifth, something the GT constitution also addresses is family planning education. It is supposed to be offered at schools across the country. This assumes funding is in place to provide this education - it is not as far as I know. It also assumes that GT children and young adults are attending said schools - after 6th grade, and often before, most are not. So, an assumption that a woman would even KNOW about available contraceptives, much less where to find them & where to find them cheaply is seriously flawed. The birth rate in GT is astronomical because women, particularly indigenous women, have few rights - including control over their own bodies - and birth control is not readily available or affordable if it is.

2nd response - to "Lisa" - VERY nice letters addressing Rescue 4's coverage of the Waiting Angels fiasco. I share you concerns about how the station chose to spin the story. Yes, they did a great job of portraying Joe as one of many sleazeballs preying on desperate GT women, but I agree they painted a racist (unintentionally, of course), Americanized view of GT women and birth moms. Thanks for sharing the letters.

Boni, who recently spent time working with a Family Planning NGO and a Community Development NGO in GT

Posted by: Boni Westover at May 8, 2007 12:58 PM

Lisa,
Thank you so much for posting your emails. You made so many great points, and very eloquently too!

Posted by: JA at May 8, 2007 11:16 PM

I am addressing questions about birth control availability and payments to birth mothers. Please understand that I have lived in Guatemala in the past. Birth control is available in health clinics, etc. It is no outside an ordinary woman's ability to secure birth control. Often, issues of culture/machismo and health beliefs are the problem in terms of choosing NOT to take birth control. As for BM payments. Since payments are not legal or ethical and "orphan" status has certain requirements--payments are done 'under the table'. Who knows how many women are paid, but I suspect that the practice is wide-scale enough that it has become an expectation. That is my opinion and I'm sure we'll never know the truth. Finally, on Joe and Simone--I really want to encourage everyone to look long and hard at who you involve yourself with. If you look at the WA website, there is no mention of professional child welfare credentials. IF you are involved with someone who does not have a professional license and training in ethics--there is no way to hold them accoutable, especially in a state like MI where there is little or no accountability for an agency. We need to be honest, Simone and Joe appear to be involved in organized crime--they will like serve time for money laundering and fraud. Their crimes against humanity are not really covered well in the law. Really, buying babies and bringing them into the US on orphan visas is not only fraud, but also child trafficking. However, the trafficking laws are not sufficient. Again, if anyone is interested, see the Lauryn Galindo case. Ms. Galindo facilitated over 700 Cambodian adoptions. In the end, she was clearly buying babies, falsifying visas, etc. When she was sentenced, money laundering was the greatest offense. And, she lost her 1.5 million dollar Hawaiian beach home and a over priced luxury car to seizure. It is not known, but she made off with millions of dollars on Cambodian child trafficking.
If you are curious about her case, go to http://www.adoptinginternationally.com/analysis.php
At the bottom of the page is a video of the intestigator explaining the case during a law school lecture.

Posted by: karenms1 at May 9, 2007 01:05 AM

Wow Lisa, way to go!

Best, Cheryl

Posted by: cheryl at May 9, 2007 07:34 PM

I would like to make a comment and provide an update to those families with pending adoptions with WA.

First, Michigan does require that its adoption agencies and facilitators are licensed when placing in-state children. Our legislators never envisioned activities like WA and/or Joe & Simone using a "gray area" to scam people. We have asked for a legisltative investigation into the Michigan Adoption Code to avoid this in the future.

One WA client called our office yesterday. She had been threatened by Joe. If he "finds out" she was joining the civil lawsuit - he would stop her pending adoption. He told her/threatened her that she could not do both. We want to reassure adoptive families that this is totally untrue. Just Joe & Simone trying to bully more parents.

Finally, we were forwarded a note today by a family here in Michigan. The Michigan Adoption unit will not render a decision on her case until the Embassy in Guatemala completes their investigation into WA.

We will try to keep updates on our website of any new information.

Joni M. Fixel
fixellawoffices.com

Posted by: Joni Fixel at May 10, 2007 01:12 PM

I would like to address a comment by karenms1 to 'look long and hard at who you involve yourself with'. Do you really think that those of us who are caught up in this mess didn't do our research? That we willingly sent huge amounts of money to a stripper and a con man? Two years ago when I began my research there was nothing bad about WA out there. No forumn listings, no nasty posts, nothing. I asked all the right questions, I talked to many families, I checked and double checked and yet here I am. Bad things happen to good people. Do NOT blame the victims in this case.

Posted by: Wendy at May 10, 2007 02:54 PM

Folks...Have anyone of you heard the term..Taking prisoners"...??
It is my opinion that Joe and Simone are doing just thst they will indeed take the whole system down along with them.They will sing like birds in order to get out of what they did... And you know what that means???Perhaps they have paid people in guatemala off as do most but this time at this point they will tell the whole world about the uglyi ins and outs of what really does indeed go on for "some" lawyers/birth mothers..
Joe and Simone are now going to save them selves by teling their stories and I imagine they have indeed paid off many..I remember when they started they went down to Guatemala looking for lawyers!! I know this for a fact and they also looked for agency reps there..
They were never on the up and up and a few agency's know this...
Sadly now they will take the whole ship down with them and take guatemalan adoptions down as well-

Posted by: caroline at May 10, 2007 08:07 PM

Karenms1, thank you for responding to my questions about birth control and birth mother payments. I agree that factors in addition to cost (social/cultural norms, etc.) are responsible for the fact that many Guatemalan women do not use birth control. However, you seem to feel that ordinary women still have much choice over their reproductive lives, and can easily aquire birth control if they choose to do so - I disagree. I did some research, and found the following article (from 2001) very illuminating:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/archive/2001/04/19/MN68798.DTL&type=printable

As for birth mother payments... I am not yet convinced that the situation is as corrupt as some make it out to be. It's hard to get accurate information, and it can be such a fine line between "payment to relinquish" and funds given to the birth mother for adoption-related expenses. I hear stories of birth mother payments and alleged coercion, and yet I also hear stories of birth mothers choosing adoption because they simply cannot care for yet another child on a housekeeper's salary. Knowing what I know of developing countries, the latter situation seems entirely believable.

Posted by: JA at May 11, 2007 03:12 PM

Wendy:
It seems that simply asking Simone and Joe about their career history and experience in adoption would have been telling. Then,asking about their education.
You see, Simone and Joe were entreprenuers. They were not licensed and committed human services professionals. That could have been ascertained very quickly with a few questions. When I look at the WA website, it is incredibly clear that Simone's ONLY knowledge is having been through adoption in regards to her three children. I could immediately smell a rat. People with years of adoption experience will disclose that information. Again...this was a business and the website was crafted to grab at the heart string of families. That said, I do recognize that the victimized families were not really armed with enough information. That is WHY regulations MUST be passed. The Hague is a start and we also must focus on state laws. Additionally, human trafficking legislation should be passed to include this sort of activity. Right now it only includes sex slavery and forced labor.

Posted by: karenms1 at May 11, 2007 04:50 PM

karenms1,
You assume that 1) These questions weren't asked and 2)if asked, Joe and Simone would have answered honestly.
We ask so many questions and do so much research when choosing agencies, almost ALL of us. The problem is that conartists always have the perfect answer ready. A little perspective is neccesary - this could have happened to any of us.
Repeat after me:
There but for the grace of God go I.....

Posted by: Anonymous at May 11, 2007 09:14 PM

karenms1,

This was our 8th international adoption, 4th Guatemalan. There are plenty of placement facilitators who do not have specific social work degrees and long years of experience who provide a good and honest level of service to adoptive families. Rats can be smelled with many facilitators in the States but that doesn't mean they ARE rats.

Facilitators who were first an adoptive mom then decided nothing could be more fulfilling than to pass along the joy of motherhood to others is just not uncommon. I've wished to do the same thing myself. That doesn't make these facilitators suspicious, it makes them normal, which clearly we have now learned, Simone was not.

We checked Waiting Angels out -- there was nothing negative at the time we signed. We knew we were taking more risk than we would have taken with the agency located here in town, but then our Amanda would not be home with us today. (No thanks to WA.) Pointing the finger at those of us who took that "leap of faith" required by all international adoptions is hurtful and unfair.

No rats were smelled here by persons not unduly gullible or naive and yet, Joe and Simone were most definitely RATS. Somehow I just can't envision Simone being honest about her former profession. Joe told us that he was a big-time siding contractor who just got a great deal of satisfaction in finding homes for the children.

To our ears, Joe had a Capone-like accent and was slightly loud and obnoxious. Does that truly make one a criminal?

Legislation will be helpful but will it keep conartists from finding a way to operate? There has been legislation out the wazoo in the U.S. to keep conartists from operating in many arenas, but does that stop corruption?

Just my penny's worth. Blaming us is just not right.

karen

Posted by: karen at May 12, 2007 04:45 PM

karenms1,

Thanks for making an unbearable situation just that much harder on us. (Like I didn't feel bad enough or guilty enough already...)

Wendy

Posted by: Wendy at May 14, 2007 09:15 AM

Have Joe and Simone been charged with "buying babies and bringing them to the US on orphan visas"? Have they been charged with bringing children over that are not adopted by someone else first?

Posted by: Gayle at May 15, 2007 04:25 PM

Karenms1,
Do you really think that ANY of us went into this blindly or naively??? We were all either experienced from having adopted in the past, or extremely cautious, not wanting to have to trust someone with something so intimate and precious, but feeling as though we had no choice. We all asked questions, we checked with the Better Business Bureau, we checked with the consumer protection division of the Attorney General's office, and I even contacted the Family Independence Agency to see if there had been any complaints made against them. I talked to the "references" that I was given. I really feel that I did all that I could. We ALL did. Quite a few of the families had adopted before, so lack of experience as far as what questions to ask was not the issue. Dealing with "professional liars" was. And to try to make all of the families involved feel worse than they already do?? Very nice. Whose side are you on?

Posted by: Ticked again at May 15, 2007 07:17 PM

I'm sorry that so many of you got hurt by Joe and SImone. It seems to me that requiring more transparency in the process would help a lot to prevent or at least provide early detection of conartists. For example, I think that adopting parents should be provided copies of all of their Guatemalan attorneys communications, such as the receipt that PGN was entered and so on. Also, I think that separate accounts should be used for all of the money so that you can see what money went in and what money went out. I would suspect that many of the people hurt by Joe and Simone would greatly appreciate these kinds of measures.

I think I'm working with a legitimate agency. However, most agencies provide no real proof that certain phases of the process have really been performed and they definitely don't provide proof of where the money has gone. Since almost all of them operate this way, it makes it easy for the Joe's and the Simones of the world.

That is my ten cents worth.

Posted by: cheryl at May 15, 2007 07:36 PM

Cheryl,

I agree 100 percent. There is absolutely minimal accountability in international adoptions.

Added to the items you've outlined, perhaps someday it will be a given that children coming to their families through adoption will have access to any and all information related to their adoption, including photos of birthparent(s)/family and openness when feasible.

It seems as though these things (accountability and information) should not be considered "luxuries" in international adoption but just a part of treating our children with basic decency and respect. In light of all that is known about the risks of operators thriving in the adoption industry and the needs of children who come to their families through adoption, these things should be cake, not icing on the cake.

Karen's 5 cents worth

Posted by: karen at May 17, 2007 11:52 AM

Simone does have 3 children that she adopted. They are being taken care of by their grandmother and greatgrandmother. The are shuffled back and forth quite a bit but are being taken care of. I don't feel that they have a "normal" family life, but this day in age, who does. They are healthy, feed, clothed and cared for, I guess that is all we can ask for.

Posted by: K at September 11, 2007 01:08 PM

I first heard about your agency on dateline msnbc.My husband and I watched a show about selling toddlers from all different countries,how the agents fake all the documents they need to get them from one country to another! And how alot of the stories said that the children were first abandoned by thier birth parents!the reason i am contacting you is this... Our little girl,Everlyse Cabrera went missing from her foster home on June 10,2006 in Las Vegas,Nevada.
We believe that she was sold by the Phillipino couple that temporarely had her,Manuel and Vilma Carrascal.She was 2 and a half at the time.They claim they woke up one morning and she was gone!Then realized that there was a chair by the open front door;assuming that she let herself out in the middle of the night!!! We as her real family need to find out what REALLY happened to her!Please help by spreading her story!!!She could be anywhere!!!Go to http://www.lasvegasnow.com/global/story.asp?S=6032678 to see and hear the entire tragic and unfair story!PLEASE HELP EVERLYSE CABRERA!!!

Her mother,

Marlena Olivas
P.S. Anyone with any info
or questions please E-mail back,
we can use all the help we can get!

Posted by: marlena olivas at October 3, 2008 09:41 PM